Last week we wrote about how we are not the ones to convert anyone to Christ, that is the work of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, it is our duty to go out and spread the Gospel, to be good Christian witnesses, and assist in the work of the Holy Spirit to bring sinners knowledge of God's love. Conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit, but God allows us to help in that work. It is a wonderful duty!
In today's Gospel reading, Christ is again speaking of evangelization. The reading is a brief one, from Mark 6:7-13. In it, Jesus sends the Apostles out two at a time. He instructs them to bring nothing with them but the sandals on their feet, the tunic on their back, and a walking stick. They are not even to pack a second tunic! And this is what He tells them: "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave. Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them."
Are there lessons here for our own work of spreading the good news? You bet.
1. Strength in numbers. Let's face it. Talking with someone about faith, sharing your experiences with them, especially if you do not know them well -- that can be pretty intimidating. It is nice to have a friend to encourage you and take some of the pressure off. We are a better witnesses as a community than any of us are as individuals. If even the Apostles hand-picked by Jesus needed friends as they went about the work of building the Church, what makes us think we can do it alone?
2. Travel light. Ok, so maybe you need more than a tunic and a walking stick these days. But there is still an important message for us here. First, none of us should be too attached to material possessions. After all, our faith tells us that this world is passing away; we need to work for that treasure in heaven which will not pass away. That's where we find true value, not in our clothes, cars, computers and the like. But there is another important lesson here about how to effectively spread the Gospel. Leave your baggage at home. I'm talking about whatever emotional baggage you might have. You don't need it. You are better off without it. And whatever it is, it is not going to help you be a better Christian witness. We live for Christ. Christ brings us peace. Don't just tell people that -- you have to show them. And that's hard to do with emotional baggage in tow.
3. Be where you are. "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave." What on earth does that mean? When you enter a house, stay in the house until you leave the house? Um.... ok, that's easy, right? No, there is more to it than that. Jesus would not have wasted his breath on pointless and redundant statements. So what is He getting at? How many of us find our minds wandering in class, and we begin to think about our plans later that day instead of listening to the professor? How many of us, when we are talking with our friends, find ourselves thinking about what we are going to say next, instead of listening to what our friends are telling us? How many of us, when having conversations with others, are in a completely different place in our minds? We cannot do that and be effective Christian witnesses. When you are with someone, be with that person. This means your body and your mind. When they speak, really listen to them. This is about truly being present with the people around you. When you enter a house, stay in that house until you leave. Don't let your mind wander off to the next task you have to do. Be present, and in the present.
4. Not everyone will welcome you. It's ok. The last advice that Jesus gives us here is about what to do when we are not welcomed. It will happen. This can be frustrating to people trying their best to spread the message of God's love. If we are doing the work of God, cooperating with the Holy Spirit, you'd think we would have a 100% success rate! But we don't. No one does, not even the Apostles themselves. Why not? There are two sides to evangelization. Someone has to preach the message. And on the other side, there has to be someone ready to receive the message. You could be the most effective communicator in the world, but if the other person is determined not to listen to you, there is not much you can do. We could drive ourselves bananas trying to convince someone who has already decided not to listen to us. Jesus says don't worry. Just shake the dust off your feet and move on. There are others out there who are ready to listen, and they need us to bring them the Good News. Besides, we don't know what seeds we may have planted with those hostile to the faith, that may blossom some day in the future.
That's where the Holy Spirit plays His part. God is timeless, and can afford to be patient. He sees things on the scale of eternity. We need to trust in His plan, trust in His promise, and know that no effort we make to bring sinners the message of His love will be wasted.
And that's good news!
God bless, and have a great week,
WCU Catholic Campus Ministry
Matthew Newsome, MTh, campus minister
(828)293-9374 | POB 2766, Cullowhee NC 28723